Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals affirming the Nebraska Worker's Compensation Court's awards for injuries suffered by Halina Picard in two separate accidents, holding that the court of appeals correctly found that the doctrine of apportionment did not apply but erred in affirming the award of benefits for Picard's 2015 accident and injury. In 2016, Picard filed claims against P & C Group 1, Inc. relating to industrial injuries she received in 2012 and 2015. The compensation court determined that Picard was entitled to an award for a whole body injury based on both injuries, that apportionment was not appropriate, and that Picard was entitled to attorney fees. The court of appeals affirmed the awards for Picard's 2012 and 2015 injuries and reversed the attorney fees award. The Supreme Court reversed Picard's award of benefits for the 2015 injury, holding that the court of appeals (1) did not err in vacating Picard's attorney fees award; (2) did not err in finding that apportionment was inapplicable and determining that Picard's second injury award should not be apportioned with the first; and (3) erred in disregarding Picard's disability from the 2012 accident when assessing her lost earnings from the 2015 injury. View "Picard v. P & C Group 1, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this tort action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for Lincoln Public Schools (LPS), holding that LPS was immune from suit under the discretionary function exception to the Political Subdivisions Tort Claims Act (PSTCA), Neb. Rev. Stat. 13-901 to 13-928. Plaintiffs, a mother and her minor child, filed this tort action seeking damages for injuries they received when they were bitten by a dog on a public school playground after students had been dismissed for the day. Plaintiffs alleged that LPS was negligent in failing to enforce the school's "no dogs" policy and in failing to supervise the playground area after classroom instruction ended. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of LPS, concluding that LPS had no legal duty and that Plaintiffs' claim was barred under the discretionary function exception to the PSTCA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that LPS was immune from Plaintiffs' claims under the discretionary function exception of the PSTCA. View "Lambert v. Lincoln Public Schools" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the court of appeals dismissing Appellant's lawsuit brought pursuant to the Nebraska State Tort Claims Act (STCA) based on a finding that Appellant failed to comply with the preset filing requirements of the STCA, holding that Appellant substantially complied with the STCA's requirements. Appellant, an inmate at the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, filed a complaint against the State, alleging tort claims. The district court granted summary judgment for the State, concluding that Appellant failed to satisfy the claim presentment provisions of Neb. Rev. Stat. 81-8,212 with respect to his claimed damages. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the content of Appellant's tort claims substantially complied with the requirements of section 81-8,212, and therefore, the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the State. View "Saylor v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff's employer's insurance broker and insurer and dismissing Plaintiff's action claiming that the broker had a duty to advise the employer to obtain workers' compensation insurance and that the insurer had a duty to defend the employer in the underlying action, holding that the district court did not err. Plaintiff was injured in an accident during the course and scope of his employement. Plaintiff reached a settlement with his employer and received an assignment of rights against his employer's insurance broker and insurer. Plaintiff then brought this action. The district court concluded that both the broker and the insurer were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in (1) applying case law applicable to insurance agents rather than insurance brokers; (2) finding that the broker fulfilled its duties as an insurance broker to the employer; and (3) finding that the insurer did not owe a duty to defend the insurer. View "Merrick v. Fischer, Rounds & Associates, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court overruling BNSF Railway Company's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction this negligence action brought under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. 51 through 60, holding that the district court erred in determining that it could exercise personal jurisdiction over BNSF for claim that were unrelated to BNSF's instate activity. Plaintiff was seriously injured while working for BNSF on a section of train tracks near Houston, Texas. Plaintiff filed a complaint in the district court under FELA, alleging that his injuries were a result of BNSF's negligence. BNSF filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the district court lacked jurisdiction because BNSF was not "at home" in Nebraska and because Plaintiff's injuries had occurred in Texas. The district court overruled the motion to dismiss, finding that BNSF consented to personal jurisdiction by registering to do business in Nebraska. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that BNSF was not "at home" in Nebraska for purposes of general jurisdiction and that treating BNSF's registration to do business in Nebraska as implied consent to personal jurisdiction would exceed the due process limits set forth in prior cases. View "Lanham v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing with prejudice Plaintiff's action against the State alleging negligence under the State Tort Claims Act (STCA), Neb. Rev. Stat. 81-8,209 to 81-8,235, on the grounds that the recreational activity exception applied to the facts of this case, holding that Plaintiff's tort claim was not barred by the reaction activity exception. Plaintiff was injured at a state recreational area when a riding lawnmower struck the picnic table where Plaintiff was sitting. Plaintiff brought this tort action against the State. The district court dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that the State had not waived its sovereign immunity because Plaintiff's claim fell within the STCA's recreational activity exception. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, at this stage in the proceeding, the allegations of Plaintiff's complaint and the reasonable inferences therefrom did not allow a court to find as a matter of law that Plaintiff's tort claim was barred by the recreational activity exception of section 81-8,219(14)(a)(i). View "Brown v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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In this insurance dispute, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment to Shelter Mutual Insurance Company on its declaratory judgment action, holding that Neb. Rev. Stat. 60-310 does not allow provisions known as partial household exclusion clauses. Larry Freudenburg was injured in an accident where he was the passenger in a car covered by a policy Freudenburg and his wife had purchased from Shelter. Shelter refused to pay Freudenburg's request for reimbursement of expenses in the amount of the policy limit for bodily injury based on a partial household exclusion clause in Freudenburg's policy. Partial household exclusion clauses reduce automobile liability coverage from the policy amount to the state minimum when the injured person is an insured, relative, or resident of the insured's household. The district court concluded that partial household exclusions are not prohibited by section 60-310. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that an automobile liability policy policy in any coverage amount is not permitted to exclude or reduce liability coverage under the policy on the ground that the claimant is a named insured or resident in the named insured's household. View "Shelter Mutual Insurance Co. v. Freudenburg" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court dismissing Plaintiff's petition alleging that she had sustained a severe and permanent brain injury as a result of an accident with a nail gun while she was at work for Builders Supply Company, Inc., holding that the compensation court did not err in concluding that Plaintiff had been willfully negligent. The workers' compensation court dismissed Plaintiff's petition upon finding that she intentionally shot herself in the head with the nail gun. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the compensation court (1) did not abuse its discretion in excluding the testimony of Plaintiff's expert witness as a discovery sanction; (2) did not abuse its discretion in declining to grant Plaintiff a second continuance; and (3) did not err in finding that Plaintiff acted with willful negligence. View "Eddy v. Builders Supply Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing as time barred this action brought under the State Tort Claims Act (STCA), Neb. Rev. Stat. 81-8,209 to 81-8,235, holding that the savings clause of Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-201.01 does not apply to an action under the STCA. It was undisputed that Plaintiff's lawsuit was filed outside the statute of limitations set forth in Neb. Rev. Stat. 81-8,227(1). At issue was whether Plaintiff could satisfy the requirements of the savings clause in section 25-201.01. The district court dismissed the action as time barred, finding that section 25-201.01 did not apply. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's STCA action was not timely commenced under the STCA and that the district court did not err in not applying the savings clause under section 25-201.01. View "Saylor v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Workers' Compensation Court awarding temporary total disability and attorney fees to Suzy Fentress, holding that the compensation court did not err. Fentress received a workplace injury while working for Westin, Inc. The compensation court entered an award in which Fentress received temporary partial workers' compensation benefits. Westin later moved to terminate the temporary indemnity benefits and to determine maximum medical improvement (MMI) and permanency. After the compensation court held an evidentiary hearing to determine MMI Westin moved to withdraw its motion to determine MMI. The compensation court disallowed the withdrawal of the motion and, thereafter, awarded temporary total disability and attorney fees to Fentress. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the compensation court did not err when it (1) overruled Westin's motion to withdraw its motion to determine MMI; (2) admitted certain evidence during the hearing; (3) found that Fentress had achieved MMI with respect to mental health issues but not physical health issues; and (4) awarded Fentress medical treatment, temporary total disability, and attorney fees. View "Fentress v. Westin, Inc." on Justia Law